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“But It’s Not Real and You Don’t Exist”: Is He Written By a Woman?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at GWU chapter.

“Written by a woman.”

The internet’s highest compliment. A phrase that plays into a conversation that’s existed for a long time: the idea that the perfect man doesn’t exist in our reality. If he does, he is not Nature’s creation but rather a woman’s. The phrase refers to men who tick all the boxes; let’s break down the components of a man who is “written by a woman.”

First off, “written by a woman” does not mean a man was actually derived on the pages of a woman’s journal and magically appear the next day as if chosen from a catalogue. It is a “stamp of approval” for men that are not afraid to be vulnerable and show a sliver of kindness to their female counterparts.

This phrase doesn’t necessarily apply to men that women on the internet find attractive (we can discuss hot-ugly and ugly-hot at a later date), but the men whose charisma bounces off the screen. Men who are enjoyable. Their stage presence, their careers, their jokes, their appearance, and even their relationships—these men are the ideal for women (in the hetero-normative sense), so of course, no man wrote their lines.

The outpouring of support for this phrase implies that no man could understand what women want, so how could they write the ideal man for us? When men write male characters, they build them up into what they perceive to be the ideal man: conventionally attractive, well-built, and traditionally masculine. The camera focuses on women in ways that feel exploitive and voyeuristic. In these stories that are littered with the male gaze, the male characters appear to be nothing a woman would find attractive; he can be pervy and misogynistic, but he is desired despite this. On the other hand, the female gaze seeks out sensitivity and wittiness. It’s more emotional and intimate. The famous hand-stretch scene in the 2005 “Pride and Prejudice” is a prime example of the female gaze: tender, warm, and powerful.

Let’s apply the “written by a woman” frame of thinking to celebrities and not just the characters they play. The men who are most often assigned this admiring moniker are straight, white, and male celebrities, primarily because they are the most popular. They garner more fans through this exposure and do more talk shows. We are bombarded with more material on them than their non-white contemporaries.

Have you painted a picture of this man in your mind? Think Harry Styles, Timothée Chalamet, Chris Evans, Dylan O’ Brian, and other “white boys of the month.” This list of recognizable names gains more additions every time a decently attractive male celebrity shows the bare minimum of respect for women. If they step an inch above the bar, whose current address is in hell, they don the crown for a month. And their careers flourish for it. They become the stars of fantasies–-the ones who get lead role after lead role. Their stardom will not expire. Their fans will protect them, defend them, and worship them. Fans will say, “how can you not love him? He said he supports equal pay, therefore he’s a feminist. And he looks like that? He’s written by a woman.”

When it comes to our favorite male celebrities, we most likely will never know if they truly are feminists. We have no idea how they treat women in their private circles. We only know them as they want us to.

Perhaps they really are written by women. Or, I should say, the women in their circle. Their publicist. Their social media manager. Their stylist. Their PR team. Their agent. She is the carefully worded answers coached to please, the pins and flags they are told to wear. She is the bar that they just barely step over.

Or maybe, the “woman” is us. The man we perceive does not exist. Not really. He is a figment of our imagination and the internet’s collective projection. In her current viral song, “Ceilings,” on TikTok, indie singer Lizzy McAlpine croons: “But it’s not real and you don’t exist.” Apply this here. These men only exist to their fans as they chose to perceive them to be. They say the right thing in a thirty-second clip that earns them praise and adoration. But they continue to exist outside of those thirty seconds and out-of-context quotes. Do they fail outside of those clips? How would we know? Where is the watchdog media for the internet’s boyfriends? If fans choose to ignore it, then they continue in their role. They are only what their fans want them to be. And why wouldn’t they be? These men are a business. Their ability to say the right thing at the right time earns them more money than most people make in a lifetime. The circle continues.

Their ability to be the “perfect man” is how their team makes money, so they will remain in character. They will continue to be a woman’s dream. But they are not real. Not really. It’s just another role, and sometimes the performance isn’t even that good. They are just attractive. And we let them get away with it. We craft this role by applying meaning to words that were written for them, by projecting onto paparazzi pictures of them and their partners.

We write them. And we buy into our own creations.

A survivor Eldest daughter syndrome, Gifted Kid burnout and NotLikeOtherGirls-itis, Sarah now openly enjoys romance novels and copious amounts of the color pink. She is a senior studying history at George Washington University, relying on writing, ice lattes from Peets and Tiktok to stay sane. She is also a member of Capitol Letters, GW's only literary magazine and is involved in Phi Alpha Theta.